Visit to Guam in Appreciation of Palau’s Conservation Officer Capacity Building

Koror State Department and A.P.C.O. representatives visit Guam to present gift of appreciation from Governor Adachi

June 27, 2013

By Hanna Muegge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn appreciation for partnership and support with conservation officer capacity building by the Guam (U.S.A) Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (D.A.W.R.); Jose Ise, director of Koror State Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement, Wayne Andrew, Alliance of Palau Conservation Officer (APCO) advisor and Pacific Islands Marine Protected Areas Community (PIMPAC) regional mentor, Surech Hideyos, OneReef Micronesia Coordinator, Sergeant Mark Aguon, Operations Sgt for Guam’s D.A.W.R. and Hanna Muegge, OneReef Micronesia fellow from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (CA, USA), presented Manny Duenas, the Deputy Director of Agriculture for Guam, with an intricate storyboard from Koror State Governor Yoshitaka Adachi.

This partnership is another example of the great work the Micronesia Challenge jurisdictions have committed to accomplish.  The Micronesia Challenge is a commitment by the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands to effectively conserve at least 20% of the terrestrial resources, and 30% of the near-shore marine resources across Micronesia by 2020.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe storyboard was presented to thank Deputy Director Duenas of Guam Agriculture and the D.A.W.R. for providing conservation officer training in Palau, as well as allowing the team from Guam to visit other Micronesian Islands. As a result of the capacity building efforts, Palau has successfully formed its Alliance of Palau Conservation Officers (A.P.C.O.), which is comprised of conservation officers from the 16 states throughout Palau.

Talking to Deputy Director Duenas confirmed APCO’s hopes for continued support and collaboration between Palau and Guam to work toward successful conservation enforcement across Micronesia and to exchange respective experiences gained along the way.


Yap State Visit


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYap, for those of you who are not very familiar with Micronesia, is the land of giant stone money. It is the most traditional district of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Colonia is the state capital and the business and administrative center. Many people whom you encounter on the streets wear brightly colored loincloths and some women may even simply wear a woven hibiscus skirt. I’m sure I did not blend in to the morning crowd as I went for my runs in shorts and a tank top. According to Wikipedia, the population of Yap is 16,436, and the entire district of Yap State only spans an area of 46 square miles. After one of my runs I looked it up online and realized I had almost crossed the entire width of the island, that’s how small it is. Going off the main road and entering the villages, the roads turn into centuries-old stone footpaths and many of the houses are still built in the traditional style—wood, thatch, rope and bamboo. They look beautiful, and I was lucky enough to see a new house being built right in the center of town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout my earlier mentioning of the Yapese stone money; I had heard stories and thought it was all wives tales, but as soon as I arrived in Yap I realized the stories were all true.

Legend has it that ancient navigator Anagumang, set sail in search of the ideal stone to be used as Yapese currency. On Palau’s Rock Islands he found a hard crystalline limestone that the Yapese then quarried into huge flat discs. Holes were carved in the center so logs could be slipped through and the stones were then lugged down to barges and towed by canoe 250 miles to Yap.

The voyage back was a dangerous one. Often entire expeditions were lost in storms at sea. The most valuable stones were not necessarily the largest, but those that were transported at the highest cost of human lives.

Stone money, which Yapese call rai, can range up to 12 feet in diameter and weigh as much as five tons. Stone money remains in use today for some traditional exchanges, but otherwise the US dollar is used for transactions.

Source: Hunt, E. et al. (2000) “South Pacific”. Lonely Planet Publications, 1st edition.

For our Yap State visit, there were a number of things on our agenda. Primarily this trip was a chance for the OneReef Micronesia Team to officially introduce themselves to partners across Yap State—Yap CAP, the Ngulu community, as well as to the Nimpal community. Some of the specific items our team aimed to accomplish on this trip were to:

  1. Revise the Nimpal agreement (if there was a need for it)
  2. Work with the Ngulu community members to
    1. Summarize the current state of progress and needs for optimal MPA enforcement
    2. Draft a list of activities that are needed in the near future to move forward with the Ngulu community monitoring efforts
    3. Collect short testimonial video clips

To acquaint you with the Nimpal and Ngulu conservation areas, here is a brief summary of the conservation management areas:

P6252233The Nimpal Channel Marine Conservation Area (NCMCA) was established to maintain the productivity and sustainability of the Okaw and Kaday fishing grounds. Building on traditional practices, the community saw the need for additional help in trying to maintain the local marine resources and to raise awareness throughout Yap and the rest of Micronesia. Yap State to this day remains a community with strong traditional ties. Thus, the marine management plan was set forth by the community and was prepared after consulting with local leaders, community members, and supporting partners. Some of the threats this area faces are unmanageable fishing & poaching activities, sedimentation, and runoff from upland areas. The current management system for Yap is made up of three different levels—traditional practices, national level management, and state management. The land and adjacent marine areas belong to clans but are subject to the complex tenure system. The tenured areas are inherited through the patrilineal line and tended to by women and are then inherited by their children. The waters in front of villages are under the jurisdiction of the village. On the national level, the FSM National Marine Resources Division (NMRD) of the Department of Resources and Development is responsible for providing national and state governments with technical information, training, advisory services, etc. At the state level, Yap has a complex marine and fisheries management structure. There are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as a customary branch.

In 2005 the Nimpal community members came together and presented the situation among their elders, fishermen, and women. The following year the community decided to take immediate steps to help reverse the decline in fish that had been noticed over recent years. These initial efforts by the community were supported by Yap CAP and other partners. After the first meeting organized by Yap CAP with the Kaday community, it was agreed on a no-take area that included the Togurgur Bluehole and partions of the Kaday fore-reef area. After meeting with the Okaw community, the planned area was extended to also include the Nimpal Channel and fore-reef / outer-reef of the Okaw fishing ground. After another year of planning and finalizing the management plan, the conservation planning (CAP) process was completed in April of 2008 with The Nature Conservancy staff and other partners. Currently the Nimpal community and its partnering organizations are looking at extending the current Nimpal Channel Marine Conservation Area as the plan in place right now is due to expire this year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Ngulu Marine Conservation Agreement is currently in the final version of the draft stage. The planned five year plan is for the period 2011 to 2015 and is an agreement involving 4 parties, the traditional authority of Ngulu Atoll, Yap CAP, the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), and OneReef. The agreement is also supported by the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and the Locally Managed Marine Area Network (LMMA). In the trial marine conservation agreement, parties are bound by the common goal of long-term protection, monitoring, and the sustainable management of Ngulu Atoll. The agreement is legally non-binding and can be renegotiated and/or modified during the trial period. The two core conservation commitments are

  1. Declaration of a marine managed area (MMA) under traditional authority as recognized by Yap State and the FSM.
  2. Successful and verifiable implementation of the Ngulu management plan.

Upon our arrival on Yap, our OneReef Micronesia team rested and then met with the Yap CAP staff for introductions and a briefing on the two communities’ progress. On the second day there we spoke to representatives of the Ngulu and Nimpal community. All meetings were very productive and everyone in the community meetings was glad to put faces to the names in prior email correspondence.



Photo Credits: Hanna Muegge

Climate Change Meeting at PICRC

Prior to leaving for the OneReef Micronesia trip, Rosania, Gloria and I (Hanna Muegge) from the Helen Reef Resource Management Program had attended the Palau Climate Change Meeting hosted by the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC). This meeting brought together scientists, representatives of the government, local organization staff, and community members. The two presentations given were presented by Ann Kitalong and Umai.

The first presentation by Ann Kitalong was titled, “Gaps and Needs Analysis towards a Climate Change Policy Framework”. To my best knowledge, this group gathered here today had previously met to discuss the objectives of their meetings. The overall objective was to validate key findings, with the driving force behind their efforts being community empowerment to build upon social networks to communicate, coordinate, share data, funds, and know-hows.

The information presented on Palau’s CO2 emissions easily showed that Palau must invest in sustainable energy management and place solid guidelines and regulations for energy consumption. From 1994 to 2005, there has been an increase in the energy sector by 334%. Energy is mainly used as distillate fuel for power generation, buses, trucks and the now over 8,500 cars on the islands. Palau is among one of the highest in carbon emitters in Micronesia.

Ann also talked about the necessity to gather already existing data from every organization in Palau and to then standardize the information. Further points made during her talk focused on:

  • Combating natural and man-made disasters (using historical blue prints to aid with coastal protection—appreciating the natural protection from coral reefs and mangroves along the coast)
  • The importance of improving waste management (the need to build a national landfill and hazardous waste facility with sustainable finance mechanisms, developing a zero-waste policy, and reducing Palau’s plastics dependency)
  • Watersheds of Babeldaob
  • Food security (developing and implementing a food security policy and improving land use planning)
  • Energy resources (financial incentives, building code standards, using smart grids)
  • Alternative energy (Palau wants 20% alternative and renewable energy by 2020—currently at 3%)
  • Scientific data and technology
  • Economic strategies (diversification of tourism products and other sectors, cost-benefit analysis of tourism industry)
  • Biodiversity (updating and endorsing the National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan, the Sustainable Lang Management Policy, environmental policies, integrating climate change and disaster risk management into PAN Management Plans, and the need for public transit)

One statistic that was brought up that caught my attention was that of the education sector. 20% of elementary school students do not finish eight consecutive years of school and 50% of high school students don’t finish four consecutive years of school. Thus, one of the main priorities should be to encourage the youth to continue their academic careers and career aspirations.

Umai talked about the “Palau Climate Change Policy Framework”. Policy should define the position of the government and other stakeholders on the issues of climate change. The focus should be mainstreaming; pursuing sustainable development through the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as understanding and responding to the adverse impacts of climate change. In order to mainstream, people should consult with the Palau Conservation Society’s (PCS).

The morning’s talks finished by bringing up the upcoming supermoon event—this event is noteworthy since there are certain areas in Koror where people are unable to bathe during Spring tide and during rain events, due to inundation of their homes and contamination of their water systems. This supermoon would be an event to watch as it may cause notably high high tides.


IMG_9301Our page is officially off and running. We at the Helen Reef Resource Management Program (HRRMP) hope to keep you up-to-date on the latest developments from our office, in the conservation realm around Koror, post any newsworthy items from our neighbors at the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), and spread the news from the conservation officers on and around the Helen Reef Island.